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Nightclub shooting highlights risks faced by entertainment venues

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Entertainment venue operators may have to take a hard look at how they protect their establishments in light of Sunday's mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the worst in U.S. history.

Fifty people, including the gunman, were killed and another 53 were injured early Sunday morning after Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, opened fire at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub, according to media reports. A U.S. citizen, he reportedly invoked the Islamic State during his standoff with police.

Tom Blank, former deputy administrator with the Transportation Security Administration and Washington-based executive vice president at Gephardt Government Affairs, said venue operators want to maintain domain awareness, where they have an understanding of who is coming to their establishments and what their vulnerabilities are.

“You would also want to have some potential understanding of what your vulnerabilities might be,” Mr. Blank said, “and that's almost a little bit like a role playing exercise, which is to say I may be vulnerable or I may have security challenges for these reasons.”

In addition, Mr. Blank said venue operators would have to consider such security measures as security guards and cameras, and working with local police departments to let them know when the facility is likely to be crowded.

“The next thing you would do,” he continued, “is say, 'All right, what do I need to do to control the situation inside? I need to make sure that threat objects don't get inside my venue.' That's guns, knives, explosives materials, other kinds of weapons, brass knuckles, take your pick.”

Venue operators could also consider banning bags, purses, and backpacks, “so that people go in with nothing but a wallet and a phone,” similar to the National Football League's approach, he said.

“All of this costs money, which the patrons are going to have to pay for,” he said. “Obviously you can't operate an entertainment facility without insurance, and if you have venue operators and nobody will sell them insurance or the insurance is prohibitively expensive that it causes them to consider going out of business, you will then say, 'I'll mitigate the risks, so you'll sell me the insurance.'”

Tarique Nageer, New York-based terrorism placement adviser and leader within Marsh L.L.C.'s property practice, said that despite the tragic loss of life, the shootings in Orlando, “is not expected to be a market-changing situation.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “the markets have a level of being accustomed to these kinds of scenarios over the past three or four years, and they have not really reacted different. While it's a very sad situation with the amounts of lives lost, the physical damage to actual property is not significant, and the terrorism insurance market and the property insurance markets go on physical damage to the buildings.”

Ben Tucker, XL Catlin's New York-based head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, said the insurer offers active assailant coverage, which can be triggered by either property damage or bodily injury where three or more people have been affected.

“In that scenario,” he said, “there are business interruption and losses which may not be covered under property policy and may not be covered under a stand-alone terrorism policy, but that we're looking to provide coverage for under active assailant.”